Surviving the airport

I think we've all been this sleepy guy at some point in an airport, Surviving the airport, Italy, Italy (Photo by fergusfleming)
I think we've all been this sleepy guy at some point in an airport

Tips on having the most comfortable air travel experience possible, from getting to and from the airport to picking the right seat on the plane

At the airport

  • Peruse the airport website ( - The most useful part of any airport website—especially that of the city into which you are flying—is to find out the fastest, cheapest, and most convenient way to get downtown. Most airport websites will describe in detail and provide phone numbers, web links, and in most cases prices for every single option and method possible—public buses, airport shuttles, high-speed rail connections, taxis, limo services, rental car offices, parking, etc. That's great, but it doesn't tell you which is actually the best to use. (I do so, though, in each major city section). In addition, the airport website will usually provide a layout of all the terminals (handy for transfers) as well as the shops and services—so you'll know there's a restaurant around the corner where you can wait out your layover rather than crowding around the tiny snack bar by the gate.
  • Save on parking at off-site airport lots (,,, - If you can't find someone to drop you off for your flight and/or there's no good public transport option and you're going to have to leave a car at your home airport, check out these much cheaper alternatives to the airport lots (even long-term lots).
  • Keep track of your flight (Just plug your flight number into the Google search box) - I can't count how many times an independent tracking service (and a helpful partner at home keeping track for me and calling me on my cell) has let me know about a delay or flight cancellation long before the desk at the terminal would cop to it—giving me a high edge over the other passengers in making contingency arrangements (by which I mean I got one of the three empty seats on the next flight out while everyone else ended up getting bumped to the following day).
  • Find ways to kill time at the airport ( - An online version of a the book "Stuck at the Airport" by Harriet Baskas filled with useful info and helpful diversions. For example, at Washington Dulles it tells you how to get to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum's Udzar-Hazy Center annex just 2.5 miles away (this enormous hangar is filled with amazing planes, like the Enola Gay and an SR-71 Blackbird—oh, and a space shuttle), and at Charles de Gaulle it tells you where there's an archeological exhibit of stuff dug up while building Terminal 2.
  • Sleeping in airports (Sleepinginairports.netYes, there is actually an entire website devoted to the art of sleeping in airports during long layovers. Enjoy.

On the plane

  • Pick the right seat on the plane ( - Use these websites to figure out which seat to pick—largely through avoiding ones that don't recline fully (in front of bulkheads and bathrooms), or are narrower (exit row and bulkhead seats may have more legroom, but they're also usually narrower, since the arm rests are frequently a tad wider to accommodate those retractable tray tables that would otherwise be on the seatback in front of you).
  • Get comfy. Bring a good book or handful of magazines, your favorite guidebook to do some preparatory reading, some snacks, and a bottle of water (save money by carrying an empty bottle through security then filling it at the water fountain). Take of your shoes and use them to help prop up your feet. To try and get some shut-eye, carry a neck pillow, eye mask, and noise-canceling headphones—which, gosh darn it, actually work (by removing the dull, largely subsonic roar of the plane, they help reduce your level of stress, both making it easier to sleep and reducing the jet lag effect; no joke) and, yes, even a light packer like me lugs a pair around just for the plane flights (plus, since they remove that dull plane roar, they make it far easier to hear the movie).
  • Try to get some sleep. I have two dozen tips dedicated to this admittedly difficult endeavor (including those above, like picking a seat and bringing gadgets). They're listed on a separate page. » more
Airfares links
Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for air travel

English (inglese) Italian  (italiano)   Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is... Dov'é doh-VAY
the airport l'aeroporto LAHW-ro-port-oh
the airplane l'aereo LAIR-reh-oh
terminal terminal TEAR-me-nahl
flight volo VOH-lo
gate uscita d'imbarco oo-SHEE-tah deem-BARK-oh
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
keep going straight sempre diritto SEM-pray dee-REE-toh
departures partenze par-TEN-zay
arrivals arrivi ah-REE-vee
delayed in ritardo een ree-TAR-doh
on time in orario een oh-RAH-ree-yo
early in avanti een ah-VAHN-tee
boarding imbarco eem-BARK-o
connecting flight la coincidenza la ko-een-chee-DEN-za
check-in accettazione ah-chet-ta-zee-YO-nee
immigration controllo passaporti cone-TRO-lo pah-sa-POR-tee
security check controllo di sicurezza kohn-TRO-lo dee see-kur-AY-tzah
customs dogana do-GA-na
shuttle la navetta lah na-VET-tah
boarding pass carta d'imbarco kart-ta deem-BARK-o
baggage claim ritiro bagagli ree-TEER-oh bah-GA-lyee
carry-on luggage bagaglio à mano bah-GA-lyo ah MA_no
checked luggage bagalio bah-GA-lyo

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah

* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).